THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva yesterday got a boost in its efforts to go after laundered drug money following its signing of a major memorandum of agreement with the Anti-Money Laundering Council as part of the two agencies’ program to find the money trail of the country’s biggest drug lords.
The MOA between the PDEA and the AMLC headed by its Executive Director, lawyer Mel Georgie B. Racela effectively gives the Agency more teeth in its program to seek the forfeiture in favor of the government of all assets and properties of arrested drug personalities in the country.
The PDEA chief said that under the new agreement, they will be working closely with the AMLC in filing criminal and civil cases involving the forfeiture of properties and other assets of persons/ or corporations found to be violating Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
As agreed upon by the two agencies, the PDEA shall refer to the AMLC drug-related cases for financial investigation, and if warranted, seek freeze order and civil forfeiture, by providing specified case documents that are admissible in court.
According to Villanueva, they are on a mission to fully prosecute all arrested drug personalities in the country and in the same vein, forfeit all properties, real or personal, nominally or beneficially owned by the respondent/accused, representing proceeds derived from the unlawful act/s, in favor of the government.
“This also includes properties found to be manifestly out of proportion to his/her lawful income; and the instruments or tools with which the particular unlawful act was committed. Assets reflected in the inventory, such as motor vehicles, cash, jewelry, and real properties that are in the custody of the law, shall be likewise forfeited,” he added.
On the other hand, the AMLC will strive to cause the civil forfeiture of monetary instruments and properties believed to be used in laundering activities involving drug money. These may include the same properties, proceeds, instruments, or tools sought to be criminally forfeited.
Aside from the filing of cases, PDEA provides assistance and collaboration in the investigation and prosecution of its referred cases to AMLC. PDEA’s officers may act as witnesses, and may follow-up on AMLC cases in courts. In return, the AMLC may request PDEA for assistance in the service of court orders or issuance subject of its case referrals.
On March 5, 2019, PDEA and AMLC likewise signed an agreement to promote and encourage cooperation to effectively prevent, control, detect and investigate unlawful activities under the AMLA.
PDEA and AMLC are members of the National Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee-Sub-Committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (NALECC Sub-Committee AML/CFT), and of the Enforcement Cluster of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“We need to track down the trail of drug money, arrest the perpetrators, and freeze their assets while they are being prosecuted. This would deprive them the financial means to bail themselves out of jail,” the PDEA chief said.